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The Equalizer

Here's my insta-analysis of the schedule, an on-the-spot, unscientific, completely anecdotal, two cent take. Assuming the team's general health (lightening doesn't strike twice does it?), I see 8 wins as things stand right now. That doesn't sound very optimistic, but eight wins damn well might be enough to win the NFC West this season.

But stabbing blindly at a guess on the Rams 2008 record at this point isn't going to yield much in the way of accuracy. Impossible to predict, because the draft is going to change things a great deal, not just for the Rams, but for our opponents as well.

I do, however, look at this schedule and see a serious need for a pass rusher to make the d-line the kind of force our offense was just a few seasons ago. I firmly believe that adding a sack master defensive end will make this unit something of an equalizer in those games on the schedule where the Rams seem over-matched at first glance. Add to that, the unit's progress last year in controlling opposing rushers, and a stout d-line should easily narrow the spread in those early season David/Goliath games against the Giants, the Cowboys and the Patriots...and the not-so-Goliath-but-still-tough matchups against Seattle, Philly, Washington and the Jets.

Now, whether that addition is Vernon Gholston or Quentin Groves or Chris Long, I think the Rams need to go for the DE over a tackle like Dorsey. Dorsey's a stud, but tell me how good our defensive front looks without Leonard Little, even with Dorsey at DT? Beyond Leonard Little, the Rams don't have a pass rushing expert at DE. We have good players on the depth chart after Little, but none of them can be considered true blue QB killers.

Little turns 34 in October. Like running backs, life for defensive ends gets awfully difficult after 30, even for Hall of Famers. Want more proof? Check out this factoid from our field rivals/internet friends over at Field Gulls:

From 2004-2006, only 9 of the top 90 (split 30 a season) sacks-recorded seasons were accomplished by players 30 or above. Of that 9, 6 were accomplished by Simeon Rice, Jason Taylor, Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan--all future Hall of Fame players.

Little had 13 sacks in 2006, but it's unreasonable to assume he can carry the burden of being the Rams sole sack specialist at DE this season at 34-years-old. In fact, if the Rams want to maximize his contribution, they'll limit the number of snaps he plays.

If Little is lost to injury (God forbid), then who takes his place? Obviously, they can use the 3-4 again some, with Witherspoon as the outside LB crashing in for the sack. That was an effective unit, but it won't be the constant force that a d-line - 3-4, 4-3 or somewhere in between - would be with another stud DE to go with Little.

Anyway, you see my point here, right? We need a DE, a pass rushing specialist DE, more than any other need on the defensive side of the ball. Dorsey's a helluva player, but drafting him second overall doesn't give the Rams a DE to be Little's understudy or replacement should he start to show his age this season.

Now, go back and look at the videos of Quentin Groves in that Field Gulls post linked above. That kid's a stud, and would give the Rams that second DE I'm talking about here. By some accounts, he'll be available when the Rams pick at the beginning of the second round. But he might not either. The FG post suggests taking him with Seattle's 25th pick. I realize they're not setting the SeaChicken draft board, but as hype builds around Groves abilities, he could get plucked away before pick #33 rolls around.

Or he might not...imagine this scenario: Rams draft Dorsey #2 and Groves #33. Let me pause to wipe the droll off my chin. There, got it. Anyway, that would be one helluva d-line, huh? But can we afford to take a pass on a talent like Vernon Gholston? I probably wouldn't.